By Gaige Davila
The Port Isabel Lighthouse, after 69 years of operation under Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), became a state historic site under the Texas Historical Commission (THC) on September 1.
The 86th Texas Legislature transferred the Lighthouse, along with six other Texas sites, from the TWPD to the THC.
On Wednesday, October 3, the Port Isabel Chamber of Commerce held a ceremony for the designation on the base of the Lighthouse, ending in a ribbon cutting in front of the Lighthouse steps.
Jared Hockema, city manager of Port Isabel, said the THC’s Lighthouse maintenance and operation duties are not much different from what TPWD’s were. The City of Port Isabel is still responsible for mowing the Lighthouse’s lawn and cleaning the area of litter, along with other minor maintenance. But major maintenance and repair will go to the THC.
The last major maintenance project TPWD did on the Lighthouse were replacing the hand railings, repairing its stucco, new paint, repairing three casement windows, replacing a glass panel on the Lighthouse’s lantern, new wood doors at the lantern level, repairing a roof leak and repainting the the iron surfaces in the watch room, according to a January 23, 2018 press release by TPWD.
The lighthouse was closed from 2016 to 2018 for those repairs.
Mark Wolfe, executive director of the THC, said the Commission’s immediate project is repairing the lighthouse railing’s paint, due to “warranty issues.”
Wolfe said he wants to find an original or replica lens for the inside of the lighthouse, or to keep within the Keeper’s Cottage exhibits. The THC wants to upgrade the exhibits in the Keeper’s Cottage, which have been damaged by humidity. The gift shop will also be assessed by the THC, potentially receiving new merchandise.